Warning! Contains spoilers for Ms. Marvel!
While the X-Men are on their way to the MCU at some point in the future, Marvel Studios has still managed to sneak in a number of references to mutants into the ever-growing shared universe. Since 2008’s Iron Man, the MCU has introduced hundreds of characters from the Marvel universe to help flesh out their interconnected universe. However, back when Marvel Studios was still fresh, they didn’t have access to significant characters like Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men. Decades later, things have changed for the better as the Fantastic Four and X-Men rights have come into Marvel Studios’ possession.
Even though Phase 4 is already stacked with a big number of films, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has been clear about the X-Men joining the MCU in the future. At this point, it is more than likely the mutants will make their first on-screen presence in the second half of MCU’s Phase 5, following Blade and other projects. Whether they start with a single character or a group of them remains unclear for the time being. Nevertheless, even if the X-Men haven’t been on-screen alongside the Avengers, the MCU has cleverly had a handful of nods to the beloved mutants.
Before Disney acquired 21st Century Fox, the word “mutant” could never even be said in a Marvel movie or TV show (let alone referencing the X-Men), and characters that both studios shared had access to had to be retooled for the respective universes. That is a major reason why Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver’s origin stories had to be reimagined. Years before the acquisition, Wanda and Pietro couldn’t be depicted as mutants nor as Magneto’s children. Marvel Studios didn’t break any of the rules binding their old legal agreement with Fox, but they have still managed to plant a number of X-Men references and Easter eggs in various TV shows and movies. The moment when the X-Men actually emerge in the MCU, expect Marvel Studios to go even further into the sandbox of plans for teases they’ve had since Iron Man.
The Fault In Thor: The Dark World
2013’s Thor: The Dark World managed to sneak in an X-Men reference that likely didn’t get noticed by a lot of mainstream audiences. During the latter half of the Thor sequel, an absurd scene with Dr. Erik Selvig actually has an Easter egg that is one of those blink-or-you’ll-miss-it nods. As his mind isn’t all together just yet, Dr. Selvig is rambling and explaining to the other patients about celestial events that are written on his blackboard. While most of it may be gibberish to some, there is one in particular that has a connection to the Marvel Universe and that is X-Men Easter egg the Fault.
In the comics, after the big war between the Kree and the Shi’ar, it caused a rift in space to be created as a consequence of their conflict. But that rift became a breach that introduced the so-called Cancerverse in the Marvel Universe as a reality where the concept of death had been defeated. In this universe, immortality was a common thing in life. So far, the MCU hasn’t gone into depth with the Cancerverse, but they might in upcoming films. However, the mention of The Fault did allow Marvel Studios to give the fans one of its earliest hints at the MCU multiverse, which Phase 4 is now exploring deeply. But it also served as something related to the X-Men comics, without specifically mentioning mutants.
Storm in Avengers: Endgame
Avengers: Endgame became a heavy time-travel story as the remaining heroes went back in time to borrow Infinity Stones in order to undo Thanos’ actions in Avengers: Infinity War. After a hiccup with getting the Tesseract, Iron Man and Captain America travel to the 1970s in order to obtain more Pym Particles. But it’s also to borrow the Tesseract from a different time period. During Steve’s journey, he almost encounters Peggy Carter, who had passed away from old age in the present during Captain America: Civil War. As Steve avoids being seen, he overhears Peggy talking with another agent about “Braddock’s unit” being stopped by lightning strikes. But Peggy goes on to say that it’s not the lightning strikes they’re looking at, after having reviewed the weather projections, alluding to one of the most popular X-Men of all time: Storm. While the MCU got to name-drop Captain Britain himself, it does seem that they also teased Ororo Munroe’s existence too.
Madripoor In Falcon & The Winter Soldier
One of the locations that The Falcon and The Winter Soldier season 1 visits is Madripoor, which is somewhere in the Indonesian Archipelago of Southeast Asia. The MCU depiction of it had it be a pirate sanctuary back in the 1800s, while it has become a safe haven for criminals. However, Madripoor is another X-Men reference for the MCU as it’s a location that has appeared in various X-Men stories. One of the notable stories is when Wolverine tried to hide from the world and make a new identity when society believed all mutants to be dead. Perhaps there are several mutants who live there currently that the MCU may revisit down the line.
Evan Peters’ Quicksilver In WandaVision
While Aaron Taylor-Johnson played Quicksilver in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Pietro Maximoff sadly didn’t last beyond his first film. As Quicksilver took a literal bullet for Hawkeye, Wanda lost her one remaining family member, which became a big part of her journey. However, in the Fox X-Men Universe, Evan Peters played a version of Pietro with no ties to the Avengers. But after Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox, Peters’s Quicksilver got acknowledged in the MCU, sort of. During WandaVision season 1, episode 5, “On a Very Special Episode…,” Peters makes a surprise appearance in Wanda’s manipulated Westview as a “recast” version of Quicksilver.
Even though Peters playing Quicksilver meant something more to the audience than Wanda, it turned out that he wasn’t actually taking over for Taylor-Johnson. Rather than being the real Quicksilver, he was actually revealed to be an imposter who had been put under a spell by the villainous Agatha Harkness. In reality, he was an aspiring actor by the name of Ralph Bohner. It was disappointing to some fans that this wasn’t the MCU bringing Peters’s version of the character into the MCU. However, it was still neat of WandaVision to use it as a wink to the audience from the X-Men movies.
While these are all the X-Men Easter eggs and references that the MCU has dropped so far, imagine the increase once the existence of mutants is openly acknowledged in the MCU. It has been a long time coming for Marvel Studios; at one point it seemed as though the studio would never regain the rights to the X-Men and mutantkind. But with Disney now owning 21st Century Fox, any fans dreaming of seeing Marvel’s mutants in the MCU will finally be able to see their wish come true. The bigger mystery now is where the X-Men will show up first and when.
Professor Charles Xavier in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Even though Evan Peter’s “Quicksilver” turned out to be a controversial bait-and-switch, it wouldn’t be long before a real mutant showed up in the MCU. Thanks to the creation of the Multiverse, audiences have seen alternate universes within the MCU. As revealed in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, many of these already contain mutants. This is how the MCU introduced its first confirmed on-screen mutant – the Professor Charles Xavier (Professor X) of Earth 838.
Unlike the WandaVision’s Quicksilver appearance, this is 100% confirmed to be the same Professor X that founded the X-Men and vowed to find a way to bring peace between humanity and mutantkind. It should be noted that he doesn’t implicitly say the word “mutant,” but shots of the X-Mansion were cheekily included in early Doctor Strange 2 trailers. This Charles Xavier is a member of Earth 838’s Illuminati, and to make doubly sure audiences know he is indeed Professor X, the famous X-Men 97 intro riff plays when he makes his appearance. He’s even riding in the same yellow hoverchair made famous by the original animated series in the ’90s.
The Charles Xavier of Earth 838 is shown to have the same incredible telepathic abilities as his comic-book and Fox movies counterpart (fitting, since he’s played by the great Patrick Stewart once again). Sadly, his powers aren’t on a par with the Scarlet Witch, however, and Wanda makes short work of Professor X by psychically snapping his neck in what’s arguably the MCU’s first effective jump scare. It’s fitting that Professor X would be the first mutant to appear in the MCU, being the founder of the original X-Men. Whether the MCU Earth 616 has its own Charles Xavier isn’t yet known. However, as of Ms. Marvel, the MCU does have its first Earth 616 mutant, without any Multiverse variants or Agatha Harkness trickery to be seen.
Kamala Khan’s Gene Analysis Results In Ms. Marvel
In the finale of Ms. Marvel, the oft-speculated origin of Kamala Khan’s powers was finally revealed – and she’s a mutant. In Episode 6 of the Disney+ series, Kamala has Bruno investigate her origin and, most importantly, her genetics. What he says when he delivers his findings could possibly be one of the most important moments in the MCU so far. He tells Kamala he’s spotted something that makes her different from her family, “like a mutation.” It’s the first time a character in the MCU has used the M-word and confirmation that mutants exist in the MCU.
Now, this choice of words could have been deliberate fan bait. Marvel has been accused of doing this before, such as when Evan Peters showed up as “Quicksilver” in Wandavision. As if to make sure audiences knew the studio had learned its lesson, however, when the Kamala-Mutant reveal is made, the same X-Men 97 riff that appeared alongside Professor X in Doctor Strange 2 is played. This is almost as clear an indication possible that Kamala’s mutation is the same kind that earns one entry into Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters (if such a place exists in the MCU yet).
This isn’t only significant because it introduced its first official mutant. In the comics, Kamala Khan is an Inhuman. Ms. Marvel’s Inhuman origins have always been pretty central to her character, too. It was one thing for the Ms. Marvel MCU series to break away from her being an Inhuman, but it’s another step entirely to retcon an overtly non-mutant character into a potential X-Man. Inhumans and Mutants are overtly different in the comics, so much so that the hypocrisy of anti-mutant sentiment not extending to Inhumans is a theme of more than one book. Marvel even tried using Inhumans to downplay the prominence of the X-Men in popularity, back before Disney/Marvel Studios owned the license to the property. Kamala Khan making the jump from Inhuman to mutant is perhaps their biggest break from comic-book canon yet. It also opens the door for other characters being granted mutanthood within the MCU that never possessed an X-Gene in the comic books.
Next: Marvel Can Pick The Best Bits Of The X-Men Movies To Improve MCU Canon
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